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SUMO: 2017 Hatsu Basho (Day 11)

Day 11 of the Hatsu Basho brings the leaderboard back into something closer to what seems normal . . . but still I don’t think anyone is going to be “certain” of anything for the rest of the tournament. Ozeki Kisenosato seemed to have soothed his jangled nerves with his win over injury-plagued ozeki Terunofuji, and yesterday’s co-leader, M10 Takanoiwa, seemed to have picked up those rattled nerves (like “what the heck am I doing as a co-leader?!?”) and looked like a deer caught in a Mack truck’s headlights in his loss to Chiyotairyu. Hopefully, he can regain his wits and make a press for double-digit wins.

In other matches, it looked like Hakuho snapped out of whatever had him so befuddled the previous couple of days. But the pundits have pointed out that since the weekend he has only been using tsuppari [pushing and thrusting styles] rather than his usual yotsu-sumo [grabbing the belt]. What does it mean? No one knows. Hakuho never says much about himself, his health, or his tactics, so people are left to guess. 

Sokokurai had to work hard against Osunaarashi yesterday, despite the fact that the Egyptian rikishi’s right knee is so bad that he can’t use any of the big, power-sumo maneuvers he’s known for. But in the end, Sokokurai won and he remains one behind the leader. Also still in that spot is Ichinojo, who will certainly have the easiest schedule over the final five days of the tournament because he’s ranked all the way down at M13. 

So, now that Kisenosato has regained sole possession of the lead, will he settle down and do his kind of sumo again? I’d say the chances are good. Today he fights M4 Endo (who he lost to in November) and tomorrow his opponent will be M3 Ikioi (who didn’t beat the ozeki at all in 2016). That will leave him with one more ozeki (Goeido), one yokozuna (Hakuho), and one as-yet-undecided opponent to face over the final weekend. (He doesn’t have to fight komusubi Takayasu because they come from the same stable.) The other yokozuna (Kakuryu) has pulled out kyuju [out for injury] starting today, so Kisenosato is saved from that challenge.

I can hear some of you saying “Injury? What injury? Kakuryu has just been fighting badly!” And you’re right. But it’s considered a big shame for a yokozuna to go make-koshi, and if things look headed that way, they often invent an injury just to save face. I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going on with Kakuryu here. 

Kakuryu’s departure is terrific news for ozeki Kotoshogiku, who was scheduled to fight the yokozuna today. At 3–7 and having started the tournament kadoban [in danger of ozeki demotion], Kotoshogiku’s back is to the wall. If he loses one more match, he’ll hit make-koshi [majority of losses] and his demotion will be assured. The only question will be what he chooses to do about it. But I’ll save those details and that discussion for another day.

Let’s look at today’s matches:

M16 Osunaarashi (3–7) vs. M13 Ichinojo (8–2)—Ichinojo gets to face the injured Osunaarashi today, which means he’ll most likely stay one win off the lead. Sadly, unless the Egyptian rikishi finds a way to win all his remaining bouts, he’ll be back down in Juryo again for the March tournament. Really, I just hope he heals up and gets back into the form he had in 2015.  (0:55)

M12 Takakeisho (4–6) vs. M10 Sokokurai (8–2)—Takakeisho is in his first tournament in the upper division and fighting with a new shikona [fighting name] (if you ever watched him in Juryo, he went by the name Sato). He’s got a lot of gumption, and the word is that he almost never falls down . . . you have to push him out of the ring. We’ll see if Sokokurai has heard that news, and if he can keep himself in the hunt for the yusho [tournament championship]. (2:07)

M8 Hokutofuji (7–3) vs. M14 Chiyotairyu (5–5)—Hokutofuji fell off the leaderboard with his loss yesterday, but he’s still searching for his eighth win . . . which would give him his eleventh straight kachi-koshi [majority of wins] since joining sumo professionally. (4:20)

M6 Chiyoshoma (5–5) vs. M10 Takanoiwa (8–2)—Can Takanoiwa bounce back from yesterday’s embarrassing loss (he really looked like his mind was somewhere else)? He may have lost his share of the lead, but he’s still only one win off the pace. (7:25)

Ozeki Kisenosato (9–1) vs. M4 Endo (5–5)—The universe is giving Kisenosato another chance. He’s once again got sole possession of the lead and only one really tough opponent left to face, but he has to make short work of the lesser opponents on his schedule. Endo is a popular rikishi, but he’s proven that he doesn’t have what it takes to play with the big dogs. If he gives Kisenosato a run for his money, that’s a bad sign for the ozeki. (11:50)

Ozeki Terunofuji (4–6) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (8–2)—Terunofuji is clearly still very injured, but he’s been giving it his all, especially against top-ranked opponents. He gave Kisenosato a surprisingly tough time yesterday, and actually beat Goeido on Day 8. The big question, though, is what Hakuho will bring to the ring. Is he ready to go back to the belt, where he dominates Terunofuji, or will he stick to pushing and thrusting, where the bigger ozeki has a distinct advantage? (13:50)

SUMO: 2017 Hatsu Basho (Day 10)

Is it okay to start off two posts in a row with a slack-jawed “Holy cats!” I HOPE so because . . . HOLY CATS!!! Of all the possible scenarios I imagined at the start of yesterday’s matches, this was not one of them: Kisenosato loses, Hakuho loses, and all but one of the lower-ranked contenders lose, too, leaving us with ozeki Kisenosato and M10 Takanoiwa tied for the lead with 8–1 records, and yokozuna Hakuho, M3 Ikioi, M8 Hokutofuji, M10 Sokokurai, and M13 Ichinojo all one win off the pace at 7–2. That also leaves five more rikishi still within striking distance at 6–3 . . . and who’d have ever thought that 6–3 could be considered “in the running”?!?

It seemed too good to be true to have Kisenosato in the lead and looking strong. Over the past two years he has ALWAYS found a way to let his guard down when good fortune stared him in the face, and that seems to be what happened yesterday. With an opponent doing as badly as Kotoshogiku has been, that ought to have been an easy win. But rather than showing strength by taking control of the match, Kisenosato instead tried to show strength by being overly calm about it. But out of nowhere, Kotoshogiku pulled together more energy than he’d shown in all of his Week 1 matches combined, looking more like the man who won this basho a year ago, and calm, cool, collected Kisenosato didn’t have an answer. He just let his opponent bumpity-bump him backwards and off the dohyo . . . and out of the sole lead in the tournament.

On the other hand, Hakuho, who had been taken completely by surprise in his Day 8 match, also fell into a calm, cool, unflappable rhythm, only to find Takayasu immediately in his face. Hakuho got flat out beaten at the tachi-ai [initial charge] and pushed back onto his heels . . . and that never happens. (And by “never” I mean that even at his most injured I have literally NEVER seen that happen before.)

Now suddenly we’re approaching the final third of the tournament and rikishi like Ichinojo, Goeido, and Ikioi are reasonable contenders for the yusho. On the one hand, it’s great to see a tournament with this much competition, and this much uncertainty about who the winner will be. On the other hand, if the choice is between a predictable yusho winner and the type of sloppy sumo we’ve seen the past few days, I’ll take predictability every time. I want to see all the rikishi performing to the best of their abilities. I LIKE it when a lower ranked rikishi pulls off a stunning upset through superior performance. But it flat out annoys me when it looks like the top-rankers simply aren’t all there, and are losing because of a lack of focus. 

But enough of my kvetching. Let’s look at today’s matches:

M15 Sadanoumi (6–3) vs. M13 Ichinojo (7–2)—Ichinojo is trimmer than he was a few basho ago, he’s moving quickly, and ranked down at M13 the competition isn’t as stiff as he’s probably used to. So it’s no real surprise that he’s doing well. Chances are, he’ll have the easiest route to senshuraku [the final day], and that may give him an edge in the yusho race. (0:45)

M10 Takanoiwa (8–1) vs. M14 Chiyotairyu (4–5)—I don’t know who’s more surprised to find Takanoiwa tied for the lead, the sumo pundits or Takanoiwa himself. Despite being one step ahead of everyone except Kisenosato, he’s probable the least likely among all those on the leaderboard to actually WIN the whole thing, well, he’s THERE . . . and anything could happen. (2:15)

M16 Osunaarashi (3–6) vs. M10 Sokokurai (7–2)—Sokokurai is a hard one to figure. He’s got a lot of experience, and he’s exactly the sort of rikishi who COULD win a yusho by being dominant in the middle of the pack. It’s only when you get to the very upper crust, the ozeki and yokozuna, that there are opponents who are likely to simply dominate him . . . and chances are that they won’t push him up that high. So he’s definitely one to keep an eye on. Today, he’s facing Egyptian Osunaarashi, who is the kind of rikishi who could dominate over Sokokurai, except that his right knee is badly injured and he’s having trouble beating anyone. But if Sokokurai isn’t careful in this match, he could find himself hoisted into the air and out of contention. (2:40)

M5 Takekaze (6–3) vs. M8 Hokutofuji (7–2)—This is only Hokutofuji’s second basho in the top division, and only his twelfth overall. So, really, I don’t know much about him. I DO know that he still hasn’t had a make-koshi [majority of losses] as a professional (similar to how shin-sekiwake Shodai was when he broke through last year, and look how well he’s doing)! You might say that makes him very unlikely to pull off a miracle yusho . . . or you might say that he doesn’t have enough experience yet to know that he shouldn’t be able to do this. Guess we’ll just have to watch his matches. (6:15)

Ozeki Kisenosato (8–1) vs. ozeki Terunofuji (4–5)—After his surprise loss to a struggling ozeki yesterday, one wonders how Kisenosato will do against the other struggling ozeki. One hopes he’ll bounce back and get back to being dominant, but sumo doesn’t always work like that. Once you let the magic slip, it’s sometimes hard to get back. Certainly, expect Terunofuji to be as energized as Kotoshogiku was yesterday. So Kisenosato had better find his A-game again quickly or this rare opportunity is going to slip through his fingers . . . again. (11:12)

Ozeki Kotoshogiki (3–6) vs. ozeki Goeido (6–3)—This match has nothing to do with the yusho hunt (though, in theory, Goeido is still a dark horse contender). With his win over Kisenosato yesterday, Kotoshogiku showed that he still has some small ray of hope of saving his ozeki ranking. But he can only afford one more loss, and he’s going to be facing the top rankers from here on . . . starting with Goeido today. (13:03)

M3 Ikioi (7–2) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (7–2)—Poor Ikioi. He’s a very likable rikishi with a lot of talent, but he’s also one of those rikishi who gets inside his own head too much. I feel like he could be a top contender, if he could get into the right headspace. As it is, he’s like Kisenosato—only more so. And today he has to fight Hakuho. Of course, Hakuho has just lost two days in a row, and looked confused at the end of both matches. Maybe Ikioi can keep that streak going . . . but I don’t think he will. (15:20)

SUMO: 2017 Hatsu Basho (Day 9)

Holy cats! What a difference a day makes! Day 9, the start of Week 2 of the Hatsu Basho kicks off with a lone rikishi undefeated atop the leaderboard . . . and it’s ozeki Kisenosato! To say that Hakuho’s loss yesterday was a surprise is a vast understatement. He was facing M2 Arawashi for the first time ever, and Hakuho is noted for beating newcomers the first time out . . . he’d done it the previous twenty-eight times in a row. Iven more surprising was how quickly and smoothly the young Mongolian accomplished the feat—using Hakuho’s own hit-and-roll tachi-ai and maneuvering the yokozuna in a full circle and out of the ring before he knew what had happened. If you go back and rewatch the video, note the look of shock on the yokozuna’s face.

The tournament really is in Kisenosato’s own hands at this point. If he can win all seven remaining bouts, he’s won the yusho. That’s, of course, much easier to say than do . . . but the fact of the matter is that he’s had precious few opportunities like this in the past few years, and there’s no telling when (or even if) he’ll get another. Kisenosato needs to take advantage of this opportunity, if only for his own sanity.

Yesterday I said I was going to spare a few words for rikishi who are underperforming this tournament, so let’s start with the winner of the November basho, yokozuna Kakuryu. He came into the Hatsu Basho hoping to win back-to-back yusho [tournament championship], but that hope took a big hit on Day 4 when he lost to M1 Mitakeumi . . . and then pretty much crumbled as he lost again on Days 5 and 6. Three losses in Week 1 is pretty much a guarantee of being out of the running. Even when he bounced back with a Day 7 win over M3 Okinoumi, he did so while literally falling on his butt. Any hope that Kakuryu had shaken off the rust that has make him a second-class yokozuna for the past few years is pretty much gone.

In even bigger trouble is ozeki Kotoshogiku. One year ago he shocked the sumo world by taking the 2016 Hatsu Basho yusho. But then he went on to have a pretty humdrum rest of the year, marked by injuries and a pair of make-koshi [majority of losses] records. The second of those was in November, and leave him kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] in this tournament. Unlike the six previous times he’s been in this situation, though, Kotoshogiku has been performing terribly this tournament. He goes into the final week with a 2–6 record. He now must win six of his remaining seven bouts, five of which will be against fellow ozeki and the two yokozuna. It seems all but a foregone conclusion that Kotoshogiku is going to lose his ozeki rank when this tournament is done. The question is—what will he do next? (I’ll give my opinions on that question in a future post.)

Enough of my prattle . . . let’s have a look at today’s action:

M13 Ichinojo (6–2) vs. M10 Sokokurai (7–1)—Sokokurai is one of only three rikishi with 7–1 records, one win behind leader Kisenosato. Of course, he’s way down the banzuke [ranking sheet] and will soon have to start fighting up. One could even say that begins today, because while Ichinojo is ranked down at M13 for this basho, he really has the skills to be at M5 or higher.  (2:40)

M10 Takanoiwa (7–1) vs. M7 Aoiyama (4–4)—Takanoiwa is the other rank-and-file rikishi currently in contention for the yusho [tournament championship], and he too is starting to fight up to prove his worthiness. Today he’s got the big, blue Bulgarian, Aoiyama (whose shikona [fighting name] actually DOES translate as “blue mountain”). (3:41)

Sekiwake Tamawashi (5–3) vs. M1 Mitakeumi (5–3)—This match may not have any implications on this yusho, but it does pit two rikishi who are likely to regularly be contenders in the months and years to come. Two rikishi who both have decent chances of earning ozeki promotions within the next year. (8:55)

Ozeki Kisenosato (8–0) vs. ozeki Kotoshogiku (2–6)—Kisenosato is the sole leader of the tournament. His destiny is in his own hands. Sadly, when this has been the situation in the past, he has gotten an unfortunate case of butter-fingers. Can he stay focused and press on to his first yusho. He’s gotten a little bit of luck here in that today’s match is against a rikishi who seems destined for make-koshi [majority of losses], and whose spirit seems broken. Kotoshogiku absolutely MUST win this match . . . he must win EVERY match he has left if he wants to retain his ozeki rank. The question is, will this pressure be enough to rouse his sleeping skills? (11:20)

Komusubi Takayasu (5–3) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (7–1)—Hakuho didn’t just lose yesterday, he got played. He lost so badly that when it was done he had a confused look on his face as if to say, “What actually just happened?” One can only guess that he’ll be coming back looking to avenge himself today, and poor Takayasu is standing in his way. Of course, Takayasu has been having a pretty terrific tournament on his own, and he certainly wants to continue that with an upset over Hakuho. I just wouldn’t bet that way. (13:20)

Yokozuna Kakuryu (5–3) vs. M3 Ikioi (6–2)—Kakuryu is out of contention for the yusho, unless things for crazily south for about six other rikishi. But he’s still a yokozuna with a lot of pride, and that means he’s going to be gunning to put away the last few lower ranked opponents he’ll have for the basho. Ikio is having a terrific basho ranked at M3, and would like to add a kinboshi [gold star award] for beating a yokozuna to make it even better . . . and Kakuryu is looking like a reasonable target. Should be a good match. (14:30)

SUMO: 2017 Hatsu Basho—Nakabi [The Middle Day] (Day 8)

It’s nakabi [the middle day] . . . Day 8 of the Hatsu Basho and we have the very familiar situation of yokozuna Hakuho and ozeki Kisenosato being unbeaten and tied atop the leaderboard. Meanwhile, although they aren’t on top of the pile, allow me to take a few paragraphs to talk about other rikishi who are looking strong this basho.

The other day I already mentioned how impressed I am with two of the young rikishi—M1 Mitakeumi and shin-sekiwake Shodai—and both continue to look strong. But you should also be paying attention to komusubi Takayasu. He had a terrific 2016, making a strong run at an ozeki promotion. If he’d gotten 11 wins or more last November, he’d had gotten that bump . . . but unfortunately he slipped wound up with a make-koshi [majority of losses] 7–8. But he seems to have bounced back into his previous shape, going 5–2 during Week 1—including three wins over ozeki (Terunofuji, Goeido, and Kotoshogiku) and one over a yokozuna (Kakuryu). If Takayasu is going to perform as well as he did in 2016, there is no doubt that he will be promoted to ozeki, probably around mid-year.

I’ve talked about how impressed I am with shin-sekiwake [first time at the rank of sekiwake] Shodai, so it seems only fair that I do the same for the OTHER shin-sekiwake we have this basho, Tamawashi. After all, Tamawashi has an even better record so far (4–3) including beating Shodai in their head-to-head match! He hasn’t had as much ballyhoo around him as he climbed the banzuke [ranking sheet], but quietly getting your work done is great way to get ahead in sumo. Tamawashi hasn’t faced as many ozeki and yokozuna as Shodai has yet, but he’s put himself in a strong position to get a kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and hold on to his sekiwake rank for another tournament. 

Tomorrow, maybe I’ll talk a bit about rikishi who are underperforming this basho. Meanwhile, let’s look at today’s matches:

M13 Ichinojo (6–1) vs. M8 Chiyonokuni (5–2)—Ichinojo is once again doing dominant sumo in the lower half of the banzuke [ranking sheet]. From this point on, though, he can expect to get a steady diet of opponents ranked above him, starting with Chiyonokuni today. Chiyonokuni has looked focused and determined all tournament, and should provide a good match against the big guy. (3:00)

M5 Takekaze (4–2) vs. M9 Kaisei (3–3)—Takekaze is both one of the smallest and one of the oldest rikishi in the top division, but he’s showing a true warrior’s grit this basho. On the other side is Kaisei, who has two distinct styles of sumo—one lets him be dominant when ranked at sekiwake, the other has him struggling for a kachi-koshi when ranked at M9. The question is, which Kaisei will show up today? (5:15)

Komusubi Takayasu (5–2) vs. M1 Mitakeumi (4–3)—Two rikishi that I’ve been talking about in my daily commentary, either one has what it takes to be promoted to ozeki, if they can stay focused over the course of three consecutive basho. Let’s see what happens when they go head-to-head. (8:50)

Ozeki Kisenosato (7–0) vs. M3 Okinoumi (2–5)—One of our co-leaders going up against a rikishi who’s been struggle to notch wins this basho. It may not seem like an exciting match, but Okinoumi has suffered mostly from bad luck this tournament, and has pressed many of his opponents to the ring’s edge before having the tables turned on him. Also Kisenosato has a tendency to take his foot off the gas here in the middle days of the tournament. At the very least, this match will give us an idea what to expect from these two in Week 2. (11:50)

M2 Arawashi (1–6) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (7–0)—There are three reasons not to write this off as a walk-over win for the yokozuna—1. Everyone brings their best performance when they face Hakuho, 2. These two have never faced each other before, so Hakuho doesn’t have any real idea what Arawashi will do, and 3. Arawashi’s only win so far this basho was against another yokozuna (Kakuryu on Day 6). As they say, anything can happen on a given day. More of interest to me is the fact that Hakuho is fighting from the West side today. I can only assume that with Harumafuji going kyuju [absent for injury], Hakuho has been switched from being ranked as the second East yokozuna to being the West Yokozuna to repair the imbalance a the top of the banzuke, and this will be his spot for the rest of the tournament. (15:35)

SUMO: 2017 Hatsu Basho (Day 7)

It’s Day 7 of the Hatsu Basho [New Year’s Tournament], and we enter the middle weekend with a very familiar set of circumstances—yokozuna Hakuho and ozeki Kisenosato are tied atop the leaderboard as the only two remaining unbeaten rikishi. All three of the rank-and-file rikishi who were tied with them lost yesterday, leaving just the two best sumotori of the past few years in the lead for the first yusho [tournament championship] of the year.

I think I’m going to make an effort to focus on the rivalry between these two more during the coming year, and in particular to note that Kisenosato has been the strongest competition that Hakuho has faced (rather than either of his fellow yokozuna). It’s unfortunate, though, that Kisenosato has the dubious distinction of being the only one of the yokozuna or ozeki to NEVER have won a yusho. Indeed, he’s the only rikishi in history to have won the prize for most wins in a calendar year (something he did last year, after finishing second behind Hakuho for that honor the previous two or three years) but NOT have won a yusho during that time period. That Kisenosato could put together multiple years of great performances, but never put together a good enough fortnight to taste victory is one of the oddities of the sport. I have a feeling, though, that Kisenosato IS going to win his first yusho in 2017 . . . and he might even win his second, too. If he doesn’t though, I think he’s destined to go down in history to be the greatest rikishi never to win a tournament, and probably the greatest ozeki of all time. 

Of course, the reason that Kisenosato is in this position is that he’s been fighting during the era of Hakuho, who is sure to go down as the greatest yokozuna of all time. As if to prove that point, when Hakuho takes to the dohyo today, it will be his 819th match as a yokozuna . . . breaking the all-time record previously held by Kitanoumi (a great yokozuna of the 1970s and ’80s).

Anyway, let’s have a look at today’s matches. 

We start with more sad news, the number of kyujo [absent for illness or injury] rikishi rises to two as yokozuna Harumafuji has withdrawn because of the hamstring strain (that he suffered two days ago while flipping M3 Okinoumi) and exacerbated yesterday (while being flipped by sekiwake Tamawashi).

M15 Chiyoo (2–4) vs. M10 Sokokurai (5–1)—This is Chiyoo’s debut tournament in the Makuuchi Division, and he looks like a kid with a lot of potential. In fact, he really shows it today against Sokokurai who, until yesterday’s loss, had been tied atop the leaderboard. Very spirited sumo here! (3:20)

M8 Hokutofuji (5–1) vs. M8 Chiyonokuni (4–2)—Hokutofuji is another rikishi who only yesterday suffered his first loss, and now is trying to bounce back against Chiyonokuni, an opponent he’s never beaten in the past (though they’ve only fought once before). This match is a great example of how it IS possible to be TOO aggressive in sumo. (6:45)

Ozeki Kisenosato (6–0) vs. M4 Tochiozan (1–5)—Kisenosato is one of the leaders, so it makes sense to keep an eye on what he’s doing. Today, though, he’s facing Tochiozan who is looking very out of sorts this basho. Meanwhile, Kisenosato is looking strong and confident. (11:30)

Yokozuna Hakuho (6–0) vs. sekiwake Tamawashi (4–2)—Hakuho is our other leader, and he’s been looking pretty good—putting in as little work as needed to beat his Week 1 opponents (although that’s led to some situations where was surprised off the tachi-ai and had to turn the tables on his opponents, he’s done so with ease). Today, though he’s up against shin-sekiwake [first-time at the third highest rank] Tamawashi, who has started with a very respectable four wins in Week 1. On a side note, this is Hakuho’s 819th match at the rank of yokozuna, a new all-time record and another feather in his already well-feathered cap. (13:40)

Yokozuna Kakuryu (3–3) vs. M3 Okinoumi (2–4)—Kakuryu entered the tournament hoping to win two yusho [tournament championships] in a row. Not that he needs to—he already achieved that feat once in order to become a yokozuna—but it’s a point of pride. However, he has look all kinds of out of sorts in Week 1. Of course, the same can be said for his opponent today, Okinoumi, who has had days where he looked like a contender, but others where he just seemed to be going through the motions. It’s anyone’s guess which version of EITHER rikishi will show up today. (15:12)

SUMO: 2017 Hatsu Basho (Day 6)

It’s Day 6 of the Hatsu Basho and only five rikishi remain undefeated—yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Kisenosato, M10 Sokokurai, M10 Takanoiwa, and M15 Sadanoumi. In fact, the big story of the basho so far has been how shaky the yokozuna and ozeki have looked. 

The winners of the previous three hon basho—yokozuna Harumafuji (July), ozeki Goeido (September), and yokozuna Kakuryu (November)—all have 3–2 records, leaving them two wins off the pace. What’s more, ozeki Kotoshogiku is both kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] AND struggling , with a pretty terrible 2–3 record. But worst of all is ozeki Terunofuji, who is still obviously dealing with chronic knee problems and only has a 1–4 record to show for his effort.

On the other hand, a few of the young up-and-coming rikishi are putting in a solid performance so far. Shin-sekiwake [first time ranked at sekiwake] Shodai is 3–2 with a win over ozeki Kotoshogiku. It’s been awhile since there was someone who looked comfortable at sumo’s third highest rank. Takayasu was strong for a few tournaments last year but bottomed out in November. A lot of sumo pundits think that Shodai will be the next rikishi to earn an ozeki promotion . . . and in order to do that, he must perform well as a sekiwake.

Even more impressive has been M1 Mitakeumi, who is also 3–2, but who has notched wins over two yokozuna—Harumafuji and Kakuryu— plus one ozeki—Goeido. Personally, I think that Mitakeumi is likely to be our next ozeki candidate . . . and that if he and Shodai can avoid injuries (like the one that Terunofuji suffered just as he was starting his push to the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet]) they’re going to be leading the next generation of champions.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Here are today’s matches.

SUMO: 2017 Hatsu Basho (Days 1–5)

Many of you may be wondering, “What the heck is up with Stan!? He didn’t make ANY posts during November’s Kyushu Basho, and the Hatsu Basho is one-third done and he hasn’t said anything about it yet. Has his love for sumo wavered?” The answer is . . . OF COURSE NOT. But the deadly combinations of day job, freelance work, and poorly timed head colds have teamed up on me during BOTH the previous tournament and this one. But I am DETERMINED to get myself back on track!

The short review for November’s tournament is this: Yokozuna Kakuryu looked like a REAL yokozuna and dominated from Day 1, winning the yusho with a 14–1 record (his only loss coming to ozeki Kisenosato on Day 11). Ozeki Goeido could have been promoted to yokozuna if he’d won this basho (after having won in September with a perfect 15–0 zensho yusho), but fell back to his old ways only managing a 9–6 record in Kyushu. Ozeki Kotoshogiku looked terrible with a 5–10 record, which makes him kadoban [in danger of ozeki demotion] in January’s tournament. Meanwhile, Ozeki Kisenosato finished second in the yush AGAIN (something he’s done more than anyone in sumo history) and managed to get the prize for most wins in the calendar year. Again he set a record by being the only person ever to do that without having actually won any of the tournaments (he’s also now the only current ozeki who has NOT won a yusho . . . though he is clearly the strongest among the ozeki, and for the past three years has probably been the second best rikishi overall after yokozuna Hakuho).

The Hatsu Basho [New Year’s Tournament] is one-third through, and we’ve seen a bunch of very genki [energetic] sumo this week. Well worth watching all the way through. There have been some unusual kimarite [winning techniques] and some incredible efforts of will. 

I’ll try to keep on a daily update schedule from here out. But even if I miss one or two, I’ll post links up through my Facebook Page.







It’s a new year, but we still have to catch up on the Japanese commercials from the final weeks of 2016! And the song we’re ALL going to be singing until the next video arrives is … LEG MAGIC! 

• Tommy Lee Jones gives us some of the back story for his “magic gaijin”
• A whole year’s worth of fun for the Folk Lore Buddies
• Ads for a few different New Year’s “Lucky Bags”
• … and the little pony who could!

Rebel Mole—A Star Wars Notion

Last night I dreamed of a Star Wars character concept that I think would be fun, though I admit that such a character may already exist (I’m not well versed in the past or present SWEU … pun semi-intended).

The idea is a rebel mole agent who was placed into the Imperial fleet shortly after the events of Ep. III. Her (my subconscious pictured the character as a woman … actually, it pictured her as Miranda Horner) assignment is to prevent any news, rumors, or reports about Luke and Leia from gaining any traction in the Imperial intelligence-gathering agencies … and in particular to keep even offhanded mentions of them from getting anywhere near Darth Vader.

The thought seemed to be that with a massive bureaucratic force like the Empire, SOME low-level researcher would have to come across hints of the twins’ origin, and would want to pass it up the chain … even if it seems ridiculous. The rebel agent would have to be placed well in Imperial Intelligence so as to block such reports … AND be a skilled assassin who would go out and eliminate the too-clever-for-their-own-good researchers.

By the time of Rogue One or Ep. IV, this agent would have spent close to 20 years on the job. She would certainly have gone up in rank, perhaps even landing on Vader’s personal staff, and she would have had to have killed (or have had killed) dozens, perhaps hundreds of basically innocent researchers.

What would that do to her standing with the Force? With the Rebels? Within the Empire? What would her internal monolog be like? What story would she tell herself about the work she’d done (and continued to do)? And how would all that change with Vader’s realizations in Eps. IV & V?


JAPANESE TV ADS: The Missing Weeks

As I said in an earlier post, I flat out fell down on the job when it came to spreading the love for these bi-weekly collections of commercials from the Japanese airwaves. Chances are you’ve already seen the Best of 2016 video (which includes some ads from these omitted videos), but there’s still a lot of head-scratching wonderment to be gotten from the rest of the ads, too. 

And so I can start the new year off with a clean slate and provide all new 2017 ads (so long as the YouTube channel continues to post them), here are the three volumes that I previously omitted.